This is a guest post from Garrett Goodman, a new media consultant who does business development for Paris-based startup Worldcrunch. He also blogs for the Huffington Post on innovations in journalism.
Although the differences between responsive and adaptive design are nuanced for the non-developer, the distinctions are increasingly important as publishers see more and more traffic come from mobile devices.
There are two similar buzzwords flying around the digital media space right now, and to the uninitiated, responsive and adaptive design might seem like interchangeable labels for the same tech. They are both, after all, methods to optimize web content for mobile consumption -- a challenge that publishers must face if they are to adapt to today's news consumption trends.
A recent Pew Research study shows that mobile users are not just skimming headlines as once assumed, but "many also are reading longer news stories -- 73% of adults who consume news on their tablet read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19% who do so daily. Fully 61% of smartphone news consumers at least sometimes read longer stories, 11% regularly." So, having established the importance of offering a site well-adapted for mobile use, the question is: What's the best way to go about getting there for publishers, adaptive or responsive design?
In an attempt to fully understand what distinguishes the two methods, I've been asking experts in media, mobile development and PR from three countries to describe the methods for me in layman's terms. Perhaps unsurprisingly, each had a slightly different explanation, and it turns out that what's best for publishers depends on what they're trying to achieve with mobile.
There are a few ways of comparing the two methods:
The Client-Server Distinction, Simplified